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Hiba Al-Ramahi Discusses Internship with Cleveland Clinic

by Maria Tsikalas on 09/24/2021


Third-year, dual-degree J.D./M.H.A. student Hiba Al-Ramahi spent the summer as a summer associate for the Cleveland Clinic. The position annually has nearly 100 law students apply, and this year, Al-Ramahi was one of just two chosen.

Her role was remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Al-Ramahi said that did not impact the quality of the experience she had, and she has had enough experience to know.

Al-Ramahi graduated from SLU in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in health management. In 2020 after completing her first year of law school, she took a summer position as a corporate compliance intern with Centene Corporation and continued part time through December. Following that, she worked in the spring as a legal intern for Lemonaid Health, a small health care startup. She notes that the variety of health care companies, from a managed care corporation to a startup to a health system, has been invaluable.

She discusses the experience at Cleveland Clinic here.

Hiba Al-Ramahi is a third-year, dual-degree student pursuing a health law concentration.

Hiba Al-Ramahi is a third-year, dual-degree student at SLU LAW, where she is pursuing a health law concentration, and SLU's College for Public Health and Justice. Photo by Adam Westrich

How did you obtain this position?

With the help of Amy Sanders [Center for Health Law Studies] and Joe Taylor [Office of Career Services]. Amy announced the opening in a mass email, and Joe reached out to me knowing I had an interest in health law and specifically in-house work. Amy and Joe have been helpful in not just getting these roles and exposure, but also the prep work, and I’m really grateful for both of them.

I decided to connect with the attorneys in the program. This was an opportunity where I could combine my health law interest with the business side of health care at a large health system.

From there I was connected with the program coordinator, Michael Meehan, and also Caitlan Grombka-Murphy ('19), who is a SLU LAW / M.H.A. alum there, so having the opportunity to speak with her as well was wonderful given that I am also a dual-degree student. Knowing she also came from SLU helped in terms of conversation; she was the fall managing editor of the Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law and Policy (2017-18) and I hold that position this fall semester.

After introducing myself to the program, it was about a three-month process from applying, interviewing, hearing back.

It was a nerve-racking process but very rewarding, and I’m incredibly grateful at the opportunity that SLU LAW presented with Cleveland Clinic and the fact that they accepted me into their program. It was a remarkable experience – everything I expected and even more.

What did your work entail?

I had the opportunity to dive into a lot of in-house issues and help the organization find goals to legal problems. At every business step, legal was involved, whether giving advice, analyzing legal risk, listening and spotting issues – legal wore several hats and it was something I greatly appreciated.

Each day was not the same, there are different types of meetings, and many active  practice areas – regulatory, physician contracting, labor and employment, litigation, etc. And then of course the projects vary; some had very quick turnaround times and other times you had several weeks. Cleveland Clinic gives you a wide variety of experiences to add to your portfolio, which is what I personally like. You also get to work with so many different attorneys – the connections I’ve made and just how supportive and how willing they are to teach you made my experience even more remarkable.

I researched regulations and drafted memos in areas of telemedicine, corporate law, employment law, GDPR, HIPAA, and also had the opportunity to review agreements and observe depositions of third-party witnesses, and of course attend the weekly specialty team meetings as well. 

Even though I was remote, I didn’t feel like my learning was limited in any way.

What was most surprising to you?

How much legal is in the weeds of the business operations. I had a sense because of my dual degree, but I didn’t realize how important legal’s role is, saying, ‘Yes, we can move forward with this with minimal risk,’ or ‘No red flag,’ or ‘Even if there’s no legal risk, is this a reputational decision we want to make?’ That was probably the most surprising – decisions not just based off of the statutory requirements. Cleveland Clinic being Cleveland Clinic, they have a high expectations: a lot of decision-making is – we have high expectations and want to yield high results. I was able to witness that first-hand.

In school we think about, “Here’s the statutory requirements, here’s the case law,” but then there was just so much more to consider; it was a very comprehensive approach to an issue that wasn’t just considering legal requirements.

How did your coursework prepare you for the work?

I can say 100 percent that Health Care Law, Bioethics and the Law, and then some of my courses from the M.H.A. side helped me in terms of understanding the business language used.

I took Bioethics and the Law with Professor Pendo, and I had the opportunity to witness an IRB in action at Cleveland Clinic and get exposed to the clinical side of care. I think is super cool when you connect something you’ve learned in class and see it in practice; it was just a great “lightbulb moment.”

Bioethics was definitely an area of focus and interest, but I also got really interested in the labor and employment issues, regulatory contract work, and data privacy.

Having that M.H.A. background was really helpful so I didn’t feel like I was catching up to the industry. In addition to health law, LRW (Legal Research and Writing) was tremendous in terms of my writing style. That’s something they took note of, my ability to write concisely and clearly. They want the legal jargon we’re used to reading in class omitted, so being able to balance that helped me significantly, as well as communicating things in email – being able to give an answer to a question in a short, concise email is sometimes all that they’re looking for.

Why did you choose to pursue your law degree at SLU LAW?

The effort that the faculty put in and their ability to stay current with issues. Before I enrolled, I knew health law was something that deeply interested me, [SLU LAW’s health law program] being the top program enticed me, as well as SLU having the option of a dual degree with a program I was already familiar with.

And then St. Louis is home – I still commute. Being close to my family was important to me, and  all these considerations combined made SLU the easy choice. The faculty is amazing and I’ve been able to see that; the programs offered as well as the distinguished speakers have been phenomenal.

What advice would you give someone who hopes to land a similar internship?

My biggest advice would be stay true to yourself and communicate effectively – those two were the biggest things that helped me get the roles that I’ve had. You’ll fit into an environment that fits you. In the most natural way, just communicate and speak for yourself; no one’s going to be the biggest advocate for you but you.

Outside of law school I love Liverpool soccer. I grew up with the sport, and I used to student manage for SLU men’s soccer, which was a great experience. It’s something that I frequently talked about in my interview, so definitely having an interest [outside of law], as well.